tv White House President Had Been Considering Firing Comey Since Election CSPAN May 10, 2017 8:12pm-8:45pm EDT
christie, milwaukee county sheriff david clark, republican congressman trey gowdy who chaired the house select committee on benghazi, former new york police commissioner ray kelly. also acting fbi director angela mccabe and former fbi director john pistole who's the president of anderson university in indiana. deputy white house press secretary sarah huckabee sanders took questions on the james comey firing and said the president had lost confidence in mr. comey's ability to lead the law enforcement agency.
>> polite crowd. >> [inaudible] >> so i've heard. good afternoon, everybody. as most of you know, sean is on reserve duty for the rest of the week, so i will be briefing you today and in the following days. i have a few announcements at the top before i take your questions. i have an update at the tunnel collapse in washington state. the incident is moving from the emergency phase to the recovery phase. after extensive testing we remain confident that there has been no radiological release. personnel begin taking steps to stabilize and fill the hole over the partially collapsed tunnel last night. we expect efforts to be completed today. the site remains closed to nonessential personnel. dedicated experts on the ground are looking closely at the next steps that should be taken with respect to mitigating future
tunnel breaches. in washington, d.c. today, as sean mentioned yesterday, the president focused on preparations for his upcoming trip. he met with the russian foreign minister following up with tillerson last month. a readout of the meeting went out about an hour ago and i refer you to that for further questions on the meeting. outside of d.c., as part of the administration's ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis in america, secretary price continued his listening to her, -- tour, learning from those on the front lines battling the epidemic. today he will meet with officials in maine in -- in new hampshire to discuss how the administration invest combat -- can best support initiatvies to combat this tragedy.
secretary zinky is in utah today, visiting national monument sites and local officials to comply with the executive order of a review of national monument designations. he took another step to advance the president's america first offshore energy strategy by reversing an obama administration action to halt scientific research in the outer continental shelf. secretary devos is an daytona beach, florida, to deliver the commencement address at the university that is a great example of the top-notch education at hbcus's have continued to provide to their students. and i know the secretary is honored to be there today. another nugget of big news, as you guys may have been paying attention in regards to the termination of the former fbi director comey. the president over the last several months lost confidence in director comey. the doj lost confidence in director comey. bipartisan members of congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in director comey. most importantly, the rank and file of the fbi had lost confidence in their director.
accordingly, the president accepted the recommendation of his deputy attorney general to remove james comey from his position. before the news broke the president spoke to several members of congress to inform them of his decision. those members were mitch mcconnell, paul ryan, chuck grassley, chuck schumer, senator feinstein, senator graham, kevin mccarthy, nancy pelosi, and bob goodlatte. later in the evening he spoke to bob corker, chairman of the senate committee on foreign relations. in addition to all the big news happening at the white house today, it is also my daughter, scarlet's fifth birthday. since you guys are here and i'm not, my first birthday wish to her is that you guys are credibly nice. -- incredibly nice. now i will take your questions.
alex? >> i have a couple of broader questions for you. yes or no, did the president direct rob rosenstein to write the letter? sec. huckabee sanders: no, the president had lost confidence in director comey and had frankly been considering letting the director go since the day he was elected. but he did have a conversation with the deputy attorney general on monday where they had come to him to express their concerns, the president has to that they put the concerns and the recommendation in writing, which is the letter that you guys ever seen. -- have received. >> he decided on his own to review comey's performance? sec. huckabee sanders: and i think that most of america have decided that director comey was not the person that should be leading the fbi as evidenced by the numerous comments we have seen from democratic members, republican members, and people across --
>> dianne feinstein said that she was told something directly different. the president said he asked rosenstein and sessions to review this. is she lying? sec. huckabee sanders: he asked them for a recommendation and asked for it in writing. they came to him on his own. again, the president had lost confidence in comey from the day he was elected. he wasn't sure that he should be fired. >> on may 3 sean came out and said he had full confidence. why did he say that? sec. huckabee sanders: he questioned director comey's reasons for staying at the fbi. the big catalyst we saw was last week, on wednesday. director comey made a pretty startling revelation that he had essentially taken a stick of dynamite and thrown it into the department of justice by going around the chain of command when
he decided to take steps without talking to the attorney general or deputy attorney general when holding a press conference and telling them that he would not let them know and that is simply not allowed. and somebody like the deputy attorney general, rob rosenstein, who everyone across the board has unequivocally said, that this guy is a man of character, the gold standard of the department of justice, when you take an action like that, go around the chain of command, you have to take steps and action to make a recommendation to the president and that is what he did. john, go ahead. >> how do you decide -- sec. huckabee sanders: we will come back to that, i'm sure. >> just now you talked about the president losing confidence in him over the last weeks and months, but we thought this was all rosenstein's doing. when was it that the president lost confidence in james comey?
sec. huckabee sanders: i think it has been an erosion of confidence. director comey has shown over the last several months, last year, a lot of missteps and mistakes, certainly i think that as you have seen from many of the comments from democratic members, including senator schumer, they didn't think he should be there. they thought he should be gone. frankly, i think it is startling that democrats aren't celebrating this, as they have been calling for it for so long. >> got another one to ask you. sec. huckabee sanders: i think there's a to question limit -- two question limit around here. [laughter] >> you said he made a lot of missteps and mistakes. back at the end of october, the president was applauding the fbi director when he reopened the investigation into the clinton emails. he seemed quite happy with him
at that point. what changed? sec. huckabee sanders: one, his position. he was a candidate for president. not the president. those are two different things. once you take over leading the department of justice that's different from being a candidate in a campaign. as you all know there is a clear distinction between no things. -- between those two things. also, having a letter like the one that he received, having that conversation, that outline for the basic atrocities in circumventing the chain of command and the department of justice, any person of legal mind and authority knows what a big deal that is. particularly in the department of justice for somebody like the deputy attorney general, who has been part of the justice department for 30 years and is such a respected person. when he saw that he had to speak up and i think that was the final catalyst. >> just a real quick question on the meetings this morning.
the president meets with the russian foreign and minute --foreign minister and ambassador. he's accused of being nixonian. meets with the nixon secretary of state. the timing of all of this, is this ironic or is it the president poking a finger in the eyes of his critics? sec. huckabee sanders: these meetings have been on the books for a while. there is not a strategy to go after the democrats. the saddest thing is that the democrats are trying to politicize and take away from something the president should be doing. he should be meeting with the foreign minister. he should be meeting with people like kissinger. for them to attack him for doing his job? maybe they should spend more time doing their job and we wouldn't have the problems that we do. >> isn't it true that the president had already decided to
fire james comey and asked the justice department to put together that rationale? sec. huckabee sanders: no. >> went did you make that decision? sec. huckabee sanders: he made the final decision yesterday, but i know he has been contemplating it for a while. >> how do you explain what -- >> how do you explain what dianne feinstein said, that the president told her that he was concerned with the fbi and the justice department? sec. huckabee sanders: i can't speak for senator feinstein, but i spoke directly to the president and heard directly from him that he had been considering letting director comey go pretty much since the day that he took office, but that there was no request by him to have a review at the department of justice. >> was the reason for the firing what was written by the deputy attorney general? is that why he did it? sec. huckabee sanders: that was the final piece. it moved the president to make that quick and decisive action. >> what was the letter he wrote
in forming comey that he was being fired? on three separate occasions, comey told him that i am not under investigation. what were those communications the fbi director told the president he was under -- awas not under investigation? sec. huckabee sanders: i won't get into the specifics. again, i'm not going to go to the specifics of their conversation. >> he made the decision to make that public. are there concerns it would be inappropriate that they had that type of conversation. sec. huckabee sanders: no. charlie? >> [inaudible] sec. huckabee sanders: i think that is probably one of the many factors. you can't deny it. it was one of the many reasons
why he didn't have the confidence of the president or the rest of the fbi. >> should we expect more firings from the justice department? sec. huckabee sanders: not that i'm aware of today. >> does the president want the department of justice to shut down the investigation? sec. huckabee sanders: he wants them to continue doing what they see as appropriate. continuing any ongoing investigations. any investigation happening on monday is still happening today. that hasn't changed. so we can put it behind us and see exactly what we've been saying for nearly a year. there is no evidence of collusion between the trump campaign and russia. we would love for that to be completed so we can all move on and focus on the things that most americans are concerned
with. >> even if it's a waste of taxpayer money, he wanted to continue? sec. huckabee sanders: nobody wants to waste taxpayer money which is why we wanted to come to completion. at the same time, you will not let this go until it does. we would love for that to be completed. let's move on. >> was the white house aware that the grand jury subpoenas for michael flynn had just gone out? sec. huckabee sanders: no, nor should we have been. i would have to refer you. >> and if the fbi investigations are going to proceed in these allegations with russian interference, will that continue funding? and support who?
who will run the investigation? sec. huckabee sanders: i believe that would fall to the deputy attorney general rosenstein. and we are incredibly confident in his abilities, as i believe you can tell by the rest of the senate, including many democrats. having overwhelming praise from both sides of the aisle. i think there is complete confidence. so that they can have somebody leading this effort that everybody across the board has respect and confidence in. nobody wants this to be finished and completed more than us so that we can focus on what we need to do here. >> sean spicer said just a week ago today that the president had confidence in the director. again, pardon me for not understanding this, but what happened in the last seven days to shake confidence? sec. huckabee sanders: of course you would love to add that in
but certainly not. one of the things that took place was the process and the hearing on wednesday where, again, not to sound like a broken record, but since you keep asking the same questions, it's only fair i keep giving the same answers. you have somebody, the director of the fbi that reports to the deputy attorney general going around the chain of command. it's simply not ok. it's not something allowed in the justice system nor should it be. it is a huge problem along with the corrections that had to take place over the last 48 hours. those are big problems and the final page that pushed the president to make a decision he did. >> do you regret not doing it earlier on generate 20? sec. sanders: i believe the president wanted to give director comey a chance, but he feels he made the right decision. >> why did he have one of his
longtime security advisers hand deliver the letter to the fbi when the fbi director was in los angeles? didn't he deserve a phone call or a face to face conversation? sec. sanders: he followed the proper protocol in that process, which is a hand written notification. at the same time, no matter how you fire someone, and is never an easy process. and so, he felt like following protocol was the best thing to do. i'm not aware of that conversation. that the president aware james comey asked for more resources in the rush investigation, and i did that factor into his decision? sec. sanders: that would be a better question for the department of justice. >> to follow up. on the campaign trail, president trump said -- he criticized the department justice for not being -- he praised director comey for
to reopen thes investigation. why was he moved by a letter that said director comey was too hars h on hillary sec. huckabee sanders: i think you are looking at two very different positions. the president was wearing a very different hat at that time. the circumstances certainly change when you become the president. then, when you go around chain of command in the department of justice, like i said before you throw a stick of dynamite into the department of justice, that is a big problem. >> we already knew what he had done. ,ec. huckabee sanders: i think my understanding is the first time the director had openly and publicly made that statement and made that clear. >> that role did not include
violence in -- is there a reason that was not put in? sec. huckabee sanders: could you speak up a little bit? >> is there a reason that was not included? sec. huckabee sanders: a lot of times, there are parts of the conversation that are not specifically included in a readout. i am not aware. i have not had that conversation. i cannot speak to every detail. i would have to refer you to the readout. that is something i will have to get back to you on. i am not 100% sure. was the white house opposed to the appointment of the special prosecutor? sec. huckabee sanders: we do not think it was necessary.
the department of justice is all working on this. atre is not a necessary need this point to add that. you have the attorney general who is as independent as it comes, due to the fact that he has bipartisan support. >> confidence and rank and file in the bureau. a special agent wrote us that said the vast majority was in favor of director company. his was a complete shock areas -- this was a complete shock. who caredthe only guy about them. what is your response to these agents who disagree? sec. huckabee sanders: we have heard from countless members of the fbi that's a very different things. the president will be meeting today tong director
discuss that very thing, the morale at the fbi as well as make a offer to go directly to the fbi. provide moreinly information on that meeting. i have not had that conversation. point i would refer you to them on what that process looks like at this point in time. >> who did the president consult before making the final decision to fire james comey? sec. huckabee sanders: you spoke with a number of individuals. at the end of the day, it was the president's decision. >> when he decided to fire the fbi director, did he speak again to the deputy attorney general or attorney general? sec. huckabee sanders: the next follow-up was in writing. they had -- may have spoken as
well. information that we have, monday night he made the final call. he took that recommendation as the evidence that he wanted to provide the fire agent coming. sec. huckabee sanders: the decision was made on tuesday, but the first conversation he had was on monday when there was an oral recommendation. he requested he see that in writing. >> you say you want to move on. me ask you about that. -- let me ask you about that. infrastructure, that is a pretty big lists. what happened yesterday, why the divide and making politics more toxic? had will come push all those things with the heightened
political environment we are in? sec. huckabee sanders: i am surprised it created a divide because you have so many republicans and him across repeatedly calling for director comey to be gone. i do not think it matters what this president says, you will have democrats come out and fight him every step of the way. theink that is one of reasons we have to get back to focusing on the issues and drain the swamp of little further. he -- did he anticipate the backlash? sec. huckabee sanders: how could he have? most of the people declaring more today were the very ones begging for director comey to be fired. if hillary clinton had won the , and she had been in the same direction, she would have fired him immediately. the people who are criticizing the president today would be
dancing in the streets celebrating. there is a report in israel that the president has made a -- has he made a decision? sec. huckabee sanders: the president has not made a decision yet. his speech this morning, mourned the president -- warned the president. i willckabee sanders: not get into the decision-making process. he is still reviewing it areas i know -- reviewing it. questions both related to the successor of director comey. and president carter chose his fbi director, he had advising.
the president going to follow this pattern or does he have some individual in mind at this point? sec. huckabee sanders: there are several individuals being considered. the first step will be determining the acting -- the interim director. that is being handled through the department of justice. i would refer you to them right now. >> the other question i want to ask, i am pretty nice. sec. huckabee sanders: it is a southern thing. >> her daughter had a birthday. happyuckabee sanders: birthday, scarlet.
>> i was going to say, it is a fact that the association of former fbi agents generally prefer people who have been agents themselves or a background in the fbi. only two former agents have been director in the last four decades. will you consider former agents for the position? sec. huckabee sanders: he is not ruling anything out. as of today, the department of justice is handling the first step in this process. >> should the attorney general have any role in this election? given the fact that in his 100 day interview, the president felt he had confidence in .irector comey he had confidence in director comey. can people take at face value and the president says
personnel issues like this when two weeks later he is out? sec. huckabee sanders: absolutely you can take confidence in the words of the president in terms of whether it -- words of the president. .he fbi is doing a lot more a lot of the people in this room would like to thank that is the fbi's sole responsibility, but that is one of the smallest things they have on their plate areas more than 20,000 employees work there. >> does the president have confidence in the acting director? sec. huckabee sanders: yes, he does. is it appropriate for the white house to be directing the fbi what to do in any investigation they are currently investigating? sec. huckabee sanders: that was
not the nature or intent of my comment. we are fully compliant in helping the process move along. we would like to see it completed so that all of us can move on and focus on things care, earlier like health infrastructure. those are big programs and priorities for this administration. it is not fbi investigations by things that affect the american voter and taxpayers every single day. >> what came before the meeting on monday. come outonday meeting of a longer process of consideration? sec. huckabee sanders: the
department of justice officials were here for business. the topic came up and they asked to speak with the president. not that i am aware of. >> did he talk about rosenstein? sec. huckabee sanders: not that i am aware of. about he talk to comey being investigated? who asked for that? about -- the president seems to be trying to exonerate himself. we talk about why he won't add anymore to what that conversation was and how that conversation took waste?
-- took place? sec. huckabee sanders: i will not get into the specific details. point, i will not comment any further than what was spelled out in the letter. >> why was it put in the letter in the first place? i willckabee sanders: not get into the specifics. thank you so much. >> c-span's washington journal is laid every day with policy issues that impact you. coming up thursday morning, acting president mcgee will talk ofut the progressive agenda
a trump presidency. george washington university law with next steps after the firing of fbi director james comey. be sure to watch washington journal at 7:00 a.m. on thursday morning. sunday night, position and journalists rosenthal examines the business side of health care in her book. how health care became big business and how you can take it back. interviewed bys president of the commonwealth fund. >> i was wondering if your book gave you any thoughts to whether health care is a free market. i think what we have seen,
probably not. , ithe beginning of the book put a tongue-in-cheek list of economic rules of the dysfunctional health-care market. as au think of health care business proposition that the market will solve coming you get to -- solved, you get to crazy places. a lifetime of treatment is preferable to a cure. i'm not saying that anyone really thinks that, but that is where market forces put you right now. >> watch afterward sunday night. former fbi director james comey has been invited to testify at a closed senate intelligence session next tuesday. the invitation came from the chair of the committee and ranking democrat senator mark